Government lawyers have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition challenging the constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) under Republic Act No. 11054 that was approved by President Duterte last July.
The SC was also asked to junk the plea for a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would stop the government from implementing RA 11054.
In its comment, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) – representing the Executive and the Legislative departments – told the SC that RA 11054 does not violate Section 18, Article X of the Constitution that mandates only one organic act to establish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
It said that RA 11054 which created a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR) was not exactly a creation of a new autonomous region as described in the Constitution, but rather an amendment of the organic act and an expansion of the territorial jurisdiction of ARMM.
As signed and approved by the President, the OSG said RA 11054 is “an Act providing for the organic law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, repealing for the purpose RA 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ as amended by RA 9054, entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.’”
There are two petitions filed with the SC against RA 11054. The first petition was filed last October by the Sulu provincial government led by Gov. Abdusakur Tan II. The comment filed by the OSG was for the first petition.
The second petition was filed last month by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) which also claimed that the BOL is unconstitutional. The SC has not acted on the Philconsa petition which is expected to be consolidated with the first case.
The OSG, through Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, debunked Tan’s claim that the BOL should have had the approval of Sulu and other provinces under ARMM though majority voting as separate units.
“When Congress decides to expand the territory of the autonomous region, the requirement does not apply to the subsisting provinces, cities of geographical areas of the autonomous region, but only to those provinces, cities, or geographical areas proposed by Congress to be added therein. A majority of the votes in all constituent units put together is sufficient for those provinces, cities or geographical areas already part of the autonomous region,” he said.
“The (separate) voting requirement provided in Section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution applies only to the creation of an autonomous region, not to the amendment of the law, nor to the expansion of its territorial jurisdiction,” he stressed.
Thus, Calida said, ARMM’s expansion does not require an amendment of the Constitution since Congress merely amended or repealed the original ARMM law. (Rey Panaligan)